Iran’s 1988 political prisoner massacre remembered

Members of Sydney's Iranian community and their supporters marked the 29th anniversary of the massacre of political prisoners in Iran with an exhibition and gathering in Sydney's Martin Place on September 3. The display included an 8-metre-long list containing the names of more than 4700 victims.

During the summer of 1988, thousands of Iranian political prisoners were executed across the country. These prisoners had survived the mass executions of the early years of repression which followed the crushing of the 1979 revolution and were serving long sentences.

The exact number of those executed is still not known, but there are about 5000 known victims that have been documented by families, political parties and organisations.

The massacre was the climax of a massive elimination process from 1981 to 1988, under which 20,000 dissidents disappeared, either dying under torture or being executed.

The 1988 killings were ordered by a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was the leader of Iran's theocratic state. It was relentless and efficient.

Prisoners, including young people, were executed in groups at half-hourly intervals for days on end. Those not executed were subjected to torture. The victims were intellectuals, students, progressives, members of opposition parties and ethnic and religious minorities. Many had originally been sentenced for distributing newspapers and leaflets, or taking part in demonstrations or collecting funds for prisoners' families.

Last year Iran executed at least 567 people, accounting for 66% of all the confirmed executions in the region. 

The families of the victims and international human rights organisations are calling for those responsible for the killings to be brought to justice and are campaigning for the death penalty to be abolished.

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